Thursday, February 28, 2013

1860 - Memphis Absolutely Needs a Vigilance Committee

Nashville Union and American
August 1, 1860

"Memphis Overrun with Scoundrels"--The picture which the Avalanche of the 30th ult. presents of the morals of Memphis shows that place to be in a deplorable condition.  The following is the article, sensation heading and all;

An Intolerable Outrage!--  
Memphis Overrun with Scoundrels! -- 
A Lady Insulted and Shot At! -- 
A Vigilance Committee Absolutely Required!

There is no place in the Union where lawlessness, murders and villainies are carried on with a higher hand than in our own city, and no place on the face of the earth where the law is less efficacious in reaching the perpetrators of outrage and crime than here on this goodly bluff of Memphis. The cry, "Let the law take its course," has become almost synonymous with "Open the doors of the prison and let the criminals go forth."  We are opposed, to the bitter end, to anything like mob law, and would be among the first to step forth and suppress it; but we do think that when the time comes in which the life and property of no one is safe from destruction and violence, when people are not screened from insult and assault within the precinct of their own homes; when rowdies and scoundrels stalk about doing open-handed villainy in the very face of what is termed the "law," it is time for good and honest citizens to wake up, rid the community of the worthless vagabonds, cut-throats, thieves and the like characters, that  themselves and their neighbors may live in peace and security.  That time is now upon us; Memphis abounds with outrage and crime, thieves, house-burners and scoundrels of the deepest dye.  Not a day's record but what proves the truth of this statement.

During the last two months we have been called upon to record instances of riots, homicides, and murders, but we know not of a more aggravated case of outrage and violence than the one which took place between the hours of eleven and twelve o'clock last Saturday night, upon the premises of the Rev. Samuel Watson, editor of the Memphis Christian Advocate, who resides in the vicinity of the State Female College, near the Hernando road, and in hearing of the church bells of Memphis.  A party of some twenty-five or thirty scoundrels, from this city, marched into that vicinity at the hour named above, whooping and yelling like so many fiends, carrying terror to the heart of every one who heard them. They attacked the garden premises of Mr. Watson, tore down the fences there, as they did at many other places, and destroying everything they could lay hold of.  Not content with this, they fired several pistols at an old negro man, who was the only protector of the place--for Mr. Watson had gone to Mississippi--because he attempted to remonstrate with them, and told them his mistress was alone and frightened almost to death.  They then chased him, yelling and cursing, to the house, when they left him, on seeing Mrs. Watson standing on the porch, and attacked her, discharging several pistols at her as she retreated into the house--the bullets rattling around her on the boarding of the building.  After laying waste all they could, and setting the women and children to frightful screaming, they came back towards the city, howling, dancing and screeching.

Can the people of Memphis--will the people of Memphis--permit such scoundrels to go unpunished and that summarily, too, in their midst?  If such an inoffensive, quiet, Christian family as the Rev. Mr. Watson's is not safe from such villains, whose can be?  No description can give an idea of the horrid proceedings of this cut-throat gang.  They should be, and can be reached, if the people of Memphis know what is orderly and right, and dare carry it out.  Who will be the first movers in ferreting out these rascals and all like them, and forcing them to leave the community?  We repeat the heading of this article, "Memphis absolutely needs a vigilance committee."

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